Earthquake Country – California

Since the earth is quite restless these days I thought it is appropriate to write a blog on earthquake events in California. When arriving in California you have to be aware that you are entering earthquake country. Yes, some of my friends even choose their apartments according to earthquake safety standards.

Upon arrival, I had never experienced an earthquake and it is really hard to imagine. I am more the sort of person who thinks: Agghhh what ever… there will never be an earthquake anyway. Well, California quickly proved me wrong. I experienced my first earthquake in San Francisco and I thought it was the movement of the elevator in the high rise building I was working in. Really, it was not that spectacular. I thought the earthquake survival pack in the break room in the kitchen was rather exaggerated.

Well, I realised that every company or public place in San Francisco has an earthquake survival pack openly displayed. It contains dry and tin food for 2-3 days in case an earthquake hits and you actually survive. Actually, it is pretty scary and you are constantly reminded that we are living on a moving plateau.

I subsequently learned that California is experiencing little earthquakes all the time every day. We just don’t feel them. Check out the U.S. Geological Survey webpage for constant updates.

I then experienced my second earthquake in Sunnyvale in the Peninsula. I moved to an internet company and we had our daily meeting in the meeting room. The telephone conference started and suddenly there was quite a strong shake. I was looking around and the meeting just continued. I couldn’t keep to myself and I had to ask whether that was an earthquake. Positive, it was an earthquake. My heart really stopped for a beat and people from here just continue with daily business. Wow I thought, hopefully the day when there is a real big quake they remember to hide under their tables.

Me on the contrary, I was pumping with adrenaline and I wanted to tell the world about my earthquake experience. I realised that many foreigners in the Bay Area had the same idea. It was really so funny, Facebook was flooded with all the Europeans and Asians, updating their status with their earthquake experience. I was smiling to myself and realised that it is good to still be alert.

My husband, on the other hand, had the opposite experience. All the local people jumped up and crawled under their desks and all the foreigners just continued and did not even know that the shake was an earthquake. Maybe scientists can judge the consequences much better, who knows.

Fact is, the Bay Area is expecting another big earthquake. The last big ones in San Francisco took place in 1906 and 1989. The quake in 1906 killed 3000 people and the City was left behind with $524 million in property damage, including fire damage. The two-tier Bay Bridge and Nimitz freeway both partially collapsed in the 1989 quake. Roughly 60 people died and 4000 were injured.

People are quite nervous in San Francisco these days. Since the earth seems to be restless at the moment (see latest events in Haiti, Chile, Hawaii, Mexico, Island) people are hoping that the next “big one” is not around the corner.

Let’s hope that the housing in the Bay Area is build with all the precaution and technology for surviving earthquakes. Now, it makes sense that we all live in wooden houses here. Since wood is lighter than bricks, we hope to get away unharmed.

Tips & Insights:

  • Check out the earthquake survival kits in public and private places and institutions
  • Find tsunami survival signs and routes which lead you out of towns
  • Check out USGS for earthquake updates



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